WINSTON-SALEM, NC – The Winston-Salem State Rams (1-1) will make their 2018 national broadcast debut this weekend when the team hosts the Virginia Union Panthers (1-1) in a 6:00 p.m. game at Bowman Gray Stadium. There will be a bit of extra attention when the Rams and the Panthers hit the gridiron as the game will be broadcast on ESPN3 as a part of the Division II Showcase.
The Rams and the Panthers will meet in one of 19 NCAA Division II regular season games to be selected for the showcase. The game will be available to view on ESPN3 and on the ESPN App.
In addition to being under the national spotlight, the Rams and the Panthers will meet in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) opener for both teams. The Rams and the Panthers will both be looking to improve upon their third place finishes in their respective divisions last season and a win Saturday could help either team's cause. Last season, the Rams finished the season with a 4-3 record in CIAA play and a 3-2 record in CIAA Southern Division play. The Panthers finished the 2018 season with a 6-4 overall record as well, but compiled a 5-2 record in CIAA play. It was the Rams who came out on top in the head-to-head meeting between the two teams in 2017. After taking a 7-14 deficit into the locker room at halftime, the Rams scored a pair of second half touchdowns and kept the Panthers out of the endzone for the entire second half to claim the 21-20 win.
The game will be a matchup between strengths. The WSSU defense is currently leading the CIAA and are ranked 10th national in rushing defense, allowing just 69.5 yards per game with just three rushing touchdowns allowed this season. The Rams will be facing the top rushing offense in the CIAA as the Panthers are averaging 213.5 yards per game with five rushing touchdowns. WSSU senior running back Kerrion Moore currently leads the Rams averaging 76.0 yards per game while Virginia Union will look to sophomore Tabyus Taylor who leads the CIAA with 137 yards per game with a conference leading five touchdowns.
While there is a focus on winning on the field, Saturday, Coach Boulware acknowledged the fact that there may be some distractions along the way. "You can use football and athletics in multiple ways as a way to get people's minds off of what's been going on," Boulware added. "But there are some prized possessions and belongings that people will never get back."
There can be a silver lining to the cloudy week heading into the game as it will offer an opportunity turn their attentions to the gridiron. "It won't take long to get the guys' focus back on football," Boulware said. "We're itching to get back on field. I don't think a week off will affect us that much. It also gives us a chance to get some rest and get healthy."
The Rams and the Panthers are scheduled for a 6:00 p.m. kick off at Bowman Gray Stadium.